Biologists, residents warn on building paper mill in Quang Ngai

Nipa palm forest in Binh Son District plays an important role in protecting local farming area from erosion and salinity (Source: VNA)

Quang Ngai (VNA) – A planned wood-pulp plant in Binh Son
district of central Quang Ngai province would destroy 50ha of nipa palm forest,
causing pollution, loss of biodiversity, and irrevocable damage to local
lifestyles, biologists and residents warn.

Biologist and vice rector of the Da Nang
Teachers’ Training College Vo Van Minh made the case against the
plant in a petition to the provincial People’s Committee last week.

As planned, the province will allow the agricultural irrigation
development company VNT 19 to build a paper mill in Long Phu village in the
district’s Binh Phuoc commune. The mill would require the construction of an
85ha lake in the commune, of which 50ha are to be built where a century-old
nipa palm forest now stands. Construction on the plant will likely not begin
for two to three years, as ministries and departments conduct assessments on
the planned facility. 

Local residents said they rely on the forest for survival. Nguyen
Ngoc Minh, 70, said he grew up with the nipa palm forest, and it creates a
major income for some households living around the forest.

“Local residents still fish in the forest and collect leaves of
nipa palm for house building. We could earn 300,000 VND (13.3 USD) each day
from fishing in the area,” Minh said.

“The forest creates a ‘green’ landscape and shelter for aquatic
fish, shrimp and oyster. It also protects our farming land from erosion and
salinity,” he said, adding that the forest had sheltered the army’s soldiers
and guerillas during wars in the 20th century.   

Vo Van Minh said that 400 households in the area rely on the
forest for income from fishing and leaf collecting.

Nguyen The Nhan, chairman of the Binh Phuoc commune People’s
Committee, said the province had asked the company to replant an area of forest
equivalent to which would be cleared to build the lake. The
province proposed a 25 billion VND (1.1 million USD) payment from the company
for the replanting.

Minh said the province should conduct an assessment of the
environmental impact on nipa palm forest and coastal mangrove swamps in Binh Son
district before approving an industrial project.

Minh, who is head of Environment Biological Resource Teach
Research Team (DN-EBR), said the team, in co-operation with the Centre of
Biodiversity Conservation, GreenViet, a NGO, had surveyed the biodiversity in
the nipa palm forests and mangrove swamps in the district and found them
extremely rich.

“Seventy five species of flora and fauna were found on total 120ha
of nipa palm forest. The 100-year-old forest area is also a safe shelter for 26
migrant bird and waterfowl species. Almost 90 per cent of aquatic animals and
fishes in the coastal area are grown in the ecological system of nipa palm
forest before moving to the sea,” Minh said.

The controversy over the wood-pulp plant comes as the region
struggles to balance conservation with economic development. According to
latest report from the provincial agriculture and rural development, the
province has 197ha of coastal mangrove forest, nearly 60 per cent decrease from

In 2015, the province grew 45.7ha coastal mangrove forest in three
communes of Binh Phuoc, Binh Dong and Binh Duong in the district under the
Climate Change Resilience and coastal mangrove swamp project.  

But re-growth projects can’t keep pace with the destruction of
forests. Last month in Binh Son district, a microorganism, Sphaeroma
terebrans Bate (a mangrove-boring isopod) killed 32.4ha of

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